Spermatozoa production takes place in the testicular seminiferous tubules and the process is known as spermatogenesis. At the end of this process, a germ cell generates 4 mature spermatozoa which will survive in the human body for between 62 and 75 days. The final stage in spermatogenesis, known as spermiogenesis, is a cell differentiation and maturation process consisting of the change from spermatids to spermatozoa. As can be seen in the picture, the spermatids develop from secondary spermatocites and have already undergone Meiosis I and II division. They have a normal set of chromosomes (haploid) which means that fertilisation of a mature egg can take place. Therefore, and despite the fact that they are immature cells, they can be used in assisted reproduction techniques using ICSI when there are no mature sperm in samples taken from the ejaculate or testicles. […]
Many factors can intervene in arrest processes during embryo development which mean cell division is detained and, therefore, it is not possible to implant the embryo in the mother’s uterus and bring about a pregnancy.
In the first instance, the conditions for development are essential. Embryos that develop in vitro are subjected to a number of artificial conditions that do not exist in vivo and which will always be less than optimum. Embryos which were apparently viable can suffer embryonic arrest. Huge efforts have been made over the last few years to try and mimic what happens inside the mother and replicate those conditions in laboratory processes. Most of all, the concentration of oxygen in incubators has been reduced, going from 20% down to 5%. The composition of the culture means has also been improved. This, along with exhaustive monitoring of pH and osmotic concentration, means that we can routinely carry out prolonged embryo development up to blastocyst stage in order to achieve improved embryo selection and increase pregnancy rates. […]